FRISCO, TX — Ahmad Caver said no one really believed in Old Dominion.
That is debatable, but while the Monarchs had the best team all season, they did seem a bit vulnerable. That proved true as they escaped twice this week, against Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinal and UAB in the semis. Tonight, they were the team shooting the free throws to ice the game.
Jeff Jones was overcome with emotion as the buzzer sounded, holding a towel to his face. Asked if it was because of his battle with prostate cancer — “personal stuff” — he responded: “It was a little bit of the personal stuff but also a little bit of having good teams every year and coming up short.”
The Monarchs lost to Western in last year’s tournament in a close semifinal. They won their third straight against WKU this season. Jones: “You can ask Stansbury how hard it is to beat a team three times in a season, they beat us three times last year.”
Old Dominion got huge buckets from tournament MVP Xavier Green and his 16 points against a tough, defensively-stout WKU in the Final game of Hoops at The Star.
He seemingly got any shot he wanted against a tough WKU defense. Hilltopper head coach Stansbury said “I thought neither team was very good offensively and the difference was [Xavier] Green.”
BJ Stith, the league’s Player of the Year stepped up and hit four big free throws that keep the spread out of reach for WKU and sealed things for ODU. Fellow senior Ahmad Caver came up big late, with big buckets against the lengthy WKU roster.
“At times we can be a mess at the offensive end”, said Jones, “but they don’t let that effect them in any of the effort categories. What these guys do is continue to fight.”
Elbert Robinson III, the LSU transfer from nearby Garland, TX, provided the “other” help that ODU has wanted all season with six big early points and a big block on WKU big man Charles Bassey.
Ahmad Caver said his both he and his road roommate Robinson couldn’t sleep, thinking about preparing for this game. “His last school gave up on him and we didn’t. I’m very proud of him.”
“Every little bit helps. He played only 14 minutes but it was an efficient 14 minutes. Elbert was terrific, banging in there with Bassey” said Jones.
Xavier Green hit huge shots all night and probably none bigger than his final three pointer to bail out the Monarchs on a busted possession. Jones credited Green’s work ethic in recent weeks, putting in time in the gym, for his improvement.
Green: “I knew I had to make plays, I knew I had to do something. They were ganging up on Ahmad and B.J.”
Jones knew he needed a big contribution from his sophomore wing. “In this tournament he has grown up a little bit. The more aggressive he looked, the more I called plays. There were a couple of plays down the stretch where there were no set plays and he took the ball and took the game over.”
One of those plays saw BJ Stith, locked down by WKU’s Josh Anderson pass to Green who took a set up dribble and rose up for a big three pointer.
The Monarchs will be in the NCAA Tournament and find out their destination tomorrow. They are dancing for the first time since 2011.
- Western Kentucky becomes the first back-to-back loser since UTEP in 2010/2011.
- This was the seventh matchup between 1 and 2 in the league tournament with the top-seed winning six of seven. The last number one to lose was LA Tech to Tulsa in 2014.
All Tournament Team:
Xavier Green, ODU (MVP)
Ahmad Caver, ODU
Josh Anderson, WKU
Taveion Hollingsworth, WKU
Zack Bryant, UAB